The world of Japanese spirits is truly fascinating, as it taps into centuries of tradition, culture and craftsmanship. Awamori channels all of those aspects into liquid form, as unique as Okinawa.
All of the awamori distilleries in Okinawa are passionate about sharing their products and one of the most innovative brands is Chuko, who’ve created the awesome Yokka Koji awamori. I was recently able to get my hands on a bottle of the stuff and it blew me away.
Founded in 1946 by Chuko Oshiro, Chuko distillery is located in Tomigusuku city next to Naha. Led by the third-generation owner Tsutomu Oshiro, the distillery has a mantra of “the inheritance and creation of awamori culture.” Oshiro and his team are laser-focused on preserving the tradition of awamori, while passing it on to a new generation.
Chuko has come up with a number of innovations over the years, with perhaps the most famous being the creation of Ryukyu Gusukuyaki kame (clay pots). Designed by Oshiro’s father, Shigeru in 1989, these pots are specially designed for ageing awamori.
Chuko has developed a unique recipe for the Yokka Koji awamori. The spirit is traditionally made from black koji, long grain Indica Thai rice, yeast and water, though Chuko have added their own twist.
Koji fermentation is usually done over two days, but the distillery took it to the next level by doing a four-day fermentation. This is where the Yokka (four) name comes from.
Oshiro has gone into detail about the process behind making the awamori. According to him the process changes “the amylase, protease and lipases enzymes produced in the fermentation. For ageing the awamori we raise the temperature for the first half of the fermentation and then lower it in the second half.”
By applying this precise level of control, Chuko have instilled some unique flavours into the spirit.
Smelling the Yokka Koji is like breathing in the scent of a forest floor in spring. There’s notes of pine, pear, apple and peach in the air. These primal, fruity textures continue in the mouth, with apple and mushroom being the dominate flavours.
Towards the back of the mouth rye bread and green pepper creep in, leaving behind a spicy, spiky aftertaste. Strong finish. An earthy, complex spirit that’s sure to grab whisky drinkers from the first sip.
It’s also worth experimenting with serving the awamori in different styles. I tried it straight and with a splash of cold water. The latter muted some of the more overpowering bready notes yet didn’t sacrifice any of the smoothness!
For food pairings Yokka Koji is a versatile drink that I’d recommend serving with fatty or acidic dishes. I paired a glass with salmon fillet and gnocchi and knew I was on to a winner. The sharp, fruity notes of the awamori helped to balance out the acidity in the fish.
Purchase a bottle of Yokka Koji awamori today and help to spread awareness of Okinawa’s national drink.